Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dogs of Halloween Past

No dogs were harmed in the making of this post.  If you know anything about me and my husband (especially pre-kids, and now with kids) is that we are crazy dog people.  Our dogs are spoiled rotten, so please don’t go calling animal control on us, as we have (now) 3 of the most loved dogs in the whole world!

Fortunately for Baxter, he has yet to be subjected to a costume, but unfortunately for Devon and Zevon, I have 9 years worth of photos to embarrass them.  They are such good dogs and good sports and I promise, were never forced into any of these – if anything it earned them more attention!

It was fun looking through past photos, not all are Halloween, but all involve our dogs in some sort of get up.  Many more great memories and topics came to mind too, but let’s start with this one and stay tuned for more!

I hope you enjoy as well!

Here’s some Halloweens past:  (I regret that I don’t have Devon’s very first Halloween which happens to be the first time I met my hubby Steven.  Devon was dressed up as a little hula dancer with a Hawaiian shirt and grass skirt!)

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Christmas:

New Years 2012:

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Winter 2010:
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2006

Easter 2011:
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4th of July 2012:
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Outdoors:
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Fun with Kids:

Other Fun Times:

Thanks for stopping by.  We love our dogs and hope that came through in all these pictures I have fun pulling together.  There is only one other thing in this life that compares to the unconditional love of dogs…the unconditional love of our Father above and I truly believe He placed dogs on this earth to give us a small glimpse of His love for us!  Amen!

And check out this video/past post here too!

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Look to the Sky!

I believe I have mentioned how much I enjoy Fall!!??  These last two weekend did not disappoint.  My mom (Grandma/Grann) and I headed up to downtown Atlanta last weekend to take the kids to Disney on Ice’s “Let’s Celebrate” and afterwards we headed to picnic in Centennial Olympic Park, right underneath the new SkyView Atlanta.

skyviewI guess Atlanta needed one of these?  To put them in lines with London and whoever else.  Although it was randomly erected in the parking lot of a music venue downtown across from Centennial Olympic Park.  Great views south and west of the city, not much of a view north or east.  And not cheap (see here!)  Thanks to Grann, we took a trip and it was quite enjoyable, but definitely a one-time thing.  It said we would get 4 rotations, due to it not being too busy on a Friday AM, we scored an extra loop!  Nice enclosed compartments to fit up to 6 people, so the 4 of us were very comfortable.  All climate controlled as well, although the day we went it actually would have been nice to have it open-air!  I would maybe would go again at night, but we can check that Atlanta to-do off the list.  Check it out if you are in the area, but nothing to rush downtown right now to see!

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ggaslogoaIn keeping with the “looking up” theme, on Saturday (the 12th) we headed to Peachtree City for the Great Georgia Air Show.  Thanks to a Groupon, we scored a pretty good deal to get in, way below door prices.  It included parking (off-site with a school bus shuttle), 4 admissions (under 5 was free), a program, 4 hot-dogs, and 4 drinks.  We were able to take advantage of the first few, but my biggest complaint was they had 1 (ONE) tent to pick-up food, and when I inquired how long it took to get through, I was told 45 min!  No thank you.  Being the diligent consumer that I am, I did send them an email with “feedback”, not negative, but just an honest opinion of my experience, and they were very receptive and made it right – so kudos to their team on that!

Tons to do, very spread-out.  I think we only grazed the surface of all their was to see and do.  According to their website they offered hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides, Warbird rides, monster truck rides, a wind tunnel, rock climbing, simulators, a 4D Theater, and so much more.  Many activities geared towards the older kids, so definitely something we will revisit when kids are older.  And this year they offered a night show with fireworks that I was told was AMAZING, again something for maybe next year.  They offer many VIP packages as well, which may be worth it.  It was pretty warm for October, and all the seating was in the direct sun, so that could be nice!

Overall a great event in Peachtree City, GA and something that should be on everyone’s to-do list.  Bring chairs/blankets and prepare to stay awhile.  The show was so much fun to watch.  It didn’t hold the interest of the young kids as I hoped it would, but my husband pointed out they may just think that is normal from all the cartoons they see doing similar things!  Good point!

And while we’re on the topic – I can’t NOT (yes I know double negative!) post a few pictures from Disney on Ice.  Not exactly a Fall Fun outdoor activity, but fun nonetheless, and the kids really enjoyed.  A good preview to the real thing…someday (maybe next year!)  And a fun way for Disney to be brought to you & your city!

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Thanks for stopping by!  (Did I mention I love fall!

Other activities have been:
Pumpkin Patch
Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Carl Miller Park
Doggie Walks

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Book Review: Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra


Tuscan Rose
By Belinda Alexandra
Releases 11/19/13
Book was provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Finish Time: 8 Nights.  Wow.  This books packs A LOT into it and was definitely not what I expected.  My expectation was a nice historical romance (from the nice pretty cover), maybe a little mystery or suspense, but definitely not what I read.  A bit disturbing, very intriguing, not a dull moment, this book was action packed from the moment I picked it up.  Many of the last few nights were spent up late rapidly turning the pages of this book.

I’ll starting by saying this book was “not my favorite” (that is how we explain things to our kids!).  There was much about this book I liked, but some that was just not my taste.  Not a bad thing and the things that didn’t fit my preference may fit yours.  If you’ve read my reviews for a while, I do have genres I like but I’ve definitely been pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone and this book (unbeknownst to me) was one of those.  While it is very well written, the subject matter – Italy in the early 1900’s under Mussolini’s Fascist leadership – is a dark, dreary, awful time of history, and makes for a very depressing read.  There were parts I enjoyed, but the last few nights I was desperate for this book to be over, hoping the graphic imagery did not enter my dreams.

I enjoyed Rosa as a main character.  Her transformation throughout the book was amazing and her struggles hurt my heart.  No one should have to endure as much as she did.  She never had a “woe-is-me” attitude, thought through every action, learned from the past, all while having a huge heart.  Her compassion and love for animals hit home with me and I enjoyed that theme coming back often through several animals throughout the book.  The people she met all left an impression on her heart and I did enjoy many characters from her past popping up throughout the book, sometimes when you least expected it.

I enjoyed the mystery woven in as throughout the book, Rosa collected pieces of information about her history (the book begins with her being dropped off as an infant at a convent).  Bits and pieces were spread out throughout the book and it really had you (and Rosa) guessing until the very end.

Words that do not describe this book are: happy, predictable, or settling.  (You can figure out the opposite of those!)  Non-stop action, no idea what would happen next, so many twist and turns, all until the very end.  I do think it was a good book, it challenged me, had me thinking what I would do (but thanking God I have never been in any of those situations), and hanging on til the very end to see what happened.  It was just such a heart-wrenching period of history and the author did not spare the readers of any details.  Not a terrible thing at all, just maybe a book to read more during the day (versus right before bed.)

I’ve mentioned before, and I will say it again, as it is true with this book.  I love when an author writes a note to their readers at the end.  Especially with historical books (as I’m definitely not a history buff), it helps me decipher what really happened versus what was made up.  In this case, I really enjoyed learning that one of the animal characters was actual a real dog!  His name was Fido, meaning “faithful” in Latin, and he waiting everyday at a bus stop for his owner.  His owner tragically passed away as a result of WW2, yet Fido kept coming back and waiting, which grabbed the attention of the town.  A story that has me in tears now reading more about it, but both heart warming and breaking as the love of animals is an unconditional one, which is also a passion of the author’s (which makes me like her so much more!)  Read more about Fido’s story HERE.  And see his monument at the end!

I could go on, but we’ll leave it at that.  This book is well written, has great characters, mystery, suspense, romance, passion, war, really something to please everyone.  My one complaint is just the amount of detail around some very graphic, gruesome, disturbing happenings.  Maybe it adds to the emotion around the book and paints a true scene, but all I can say is it’s not for me and I think next will be something a little lighter?  Who knows though – the great thing about books is that they can surprise you!

fidoMonument to Fido – Click on the picture for an awesome article about a TON of dog monuments.  Dogs are just so amazing!

 

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Scarecrows, Ogres, and Shaggy Dogs!

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What do all those have in common?  Why they are all fun things to view this fall at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens!  We packed a picnic and headed up there this past Sunday AM.  (Another item to add to our Fall Fun list!)  Right now, two fun events are going on, as it looks like they change seasonally.  (We checked out the Garden Lights a few years back and it did not disappoint!)

First is the Imaginary Worlds | Plants Larger Than Life.  This included:

“The sculptures – ranging up to 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide – include a gazing unicorn, a friendly ogre, a pair of gigantic cobras, a group of enchanting rabbits, and a couple of flighty butterflies. The largest piece, a 25-foot-tall representation of a goddess emerging from the earth, greets visitors in the Cascades Garden.”  (Description from website)

Here are some of our pictures.  The kids favorites were the Shaggy Dog and the bunnies (I think LL found 6!)

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Second was the annual Scarecrows in the Garden were various companies, organizations, and school from around Atlanta participate in constructing their own scarecrows.  These were SO fun to look at as they lined the trails throughout many parts of the garden. I just noticed a Scavenger hunt on their website – we’ll definitely have to print that one out for next year for the kids! Here are a few favorites: (the first was named BooBee for Breast Cancer Awareness – by far my favorite!)

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Another big highlight was the Children’s Garden.  A surprisingly large section of trails with a variety of activities for the little ones.  It included (but is not limited to); a treehouse, how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, digging for dinosaur bones, a sunflower splash pad (we’ll have to go back in the summer to check this out!), a little house, a little cavern, and just lots of “little” places to crawl/walk/whatever through!  Definitely need to go back and spend some more time there!  And bonus this weekend, they had little stations set up where kids got the hands painted, made a hat, and went pumpkin bowling – extra fun!

After taking in all the kids could handle (and actually joining for only a little bit more plus free tickets to bring friends!), we walked right into Piedmont Park and set up to picnic.  Did I mention how pretty the weather was?  Then we went to the playground, which I was very impressed with, and then strolled around a little.  The AIDS walk was going on, so we walked over to the main green space to observe and dance to a great band playing some of our favorite songs (Moves Like Jagger, Don’t Stop Believin’…), before calling it a day.

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Kids both fell asleep on the way home, and we came home exhausted, but refreshed from a perfect Sunday morning together and outside!  The perfect way to celebrate God’s glory and rejoice in it!

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On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Psalm 145:5

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Happy Fall!

Love cool AMs spent outside with the pups.  This AM I took 2 of the 3 (on the PTC golf cart paths – it just isn’t wide enough for all 3 to come) for a 5K walk followed by a brief dip in Lake Peachtree!  I love taking pictures although they are all from the iPhone – but I was pretty proud of these few today and just wanted to share.  What are your favorite fall activities with your furry friends?

More to come from these 3 this fall!

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Zevon

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Baxter

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Just before they ran off to chase some squirrels!

And don’t worry about Devon – we go for lots of walks at home and I’ve been rotating them each Friday (mommy’s morning out!)

Check out Devy Weather for a whole post dedicated to her!

And finally while on the topic of dogs – here is a fun one from yesterday after the kids went to bed:

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Book Review: The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris


The Pieces We Keep
By Kristina McMorris
Provided free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Available for Purchase 11/26/13

Finish Time:  too long for me.  I’ve been exhausted, so I don’t want my time to finish to be any sort of indicator to how this book is.  It was a very enjoyable read, but the last 2 weeks, my droopy eyelids beat out wanting to read on, thus the longer time between reviews.  I’m almost tempted to go back and read it (and I may) as there are so many little details that are tied up as the book go on that I feel like I may have missed some!

This book jumps back and forth between the 1940’s and present day – 2012.  Throughout the book the stories mesh together, which was fun, because at the back of my mind was how are they going to tie these two stories together?  But the author did and it was perfect.  Not exactly a happy topic, but delivered very well.  The 1940’s part was part love-story, part suspense/thriller, and a great glimpse into history (WWII/Nazi Germany time period.)  Great characters.  I could clearly picture Vivian, Luanne, Gene, and Isaak in my head and really felt invested in their stories.  I also always enjoy when authors explain (at the end) what details were actual events or based on real people versus detail they made up (or created from facts!)

Fast forward to present day and the main characters were Audra and Jack, a recent widow and her son.  Jack is dealing with a variety of issues (mainly night terrors) and my heartstrings were tugged (and almost broken) as Audra, as a mother, struggles to figure it out and keep her son safe.  Through a historical mystery spurred from Jack’s dreams, a war vet, grieving in-laws, a pending job change and move, and some good friends, Audra makes her way through and it does not fall short of non-stop action and eager page-turning.  You can feel her raw emotion come through the pages and really is one of the most real characters I’ve encountered in a book.

The ending uncovers many mysteries presented throughout the book and wraps everything up nicely.  Even may have left it open for a sequel?  I left this book feeling content and satisfied.  Definitely will look for more from the author!

Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read by far, and this book does not disappoint.  A great glimpse into history and even present day challenges of being a mother.  I really enjoyed it – check it out if you get a chance this November!!

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Just because He may not answer doesn’t mean He don’t care…

…some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.  Beautiful song by Garth Brooks.  It’s been around for a while and it always comes to mind when one door is closed and I’m waiting for another to be opened.  See the lyrics at the end of the post.

It’s been a long week, I think we are all fighting off allergies, kids aren’t sleeping well (I’m not sleeping well), and we’re still in that period of waiting and unknowns I think I blogged about a few weeks back.  And it’s just got me thinking about prayers.

I’m not sure how you pray, but I try to be general when I pray to avoid an answer I don’t want.  I don’t think that always works. I pray for patience, answers, peace, comfort, an open-heart, an open-mind, a servant attitude, Your will to be done.  But is that what I really want?  Sometimes yes, but God knows the inner-most desires of our heart and will give us those.  Really?  I guess sometimes what your mind says and what your heart wants can be different, but ultimately HE knows what HE is doing and we need to trust.

Psalm 37:4 says: (print found on etsy – click to check it out!)

Are the periods of waiting God preparing us for what is next?  Maybe the build up will make us more appreciative?  Maybe He just doesn’t think we are ready (even though we may think we are?)  Maybe there is something AMAZING waiting for us, but it’s another year out?  Who knows?  Well God does and we are to be obedient and wait and TRUST that He will come through.  He always does and always will.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7

So maybe unanswered prayers is not the correct term, rather not-the-answer-I-hoped-for-but-God’s-right-answer to my prayers.  Mark 11:24 says:

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Keep on praying, trusting, and loving, and God will reveal His amazing plans for you.  They may not have been what you planned for but they will be what HE planned for and will most likely be even better.  I know I can look at my past and be thankful for many prayers that were answered very differently than I had in mind, but for much better!  What about you?  Have a great week – Amen!

Here is the referenced song, I really just like the chorus and his realization at the end:

Unanswered Prayers
by Garth Brooks (it doesn’t appear his version is available anywhere to download except for buying the CD)

Just the other night a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I’d wanted for all times
And each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine
And if he’d only grant me this wish I wished back then
I’d never ask for anything again

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers 
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs 
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care 
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers 

She wasn’t quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn’t much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered

Some of God’s greatest gifts are all too often unanswered…
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

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Kids Book Review: The Pajamas of My Dreams


The Pajamas of My Dreams
by Laurie Collins (Author) , Margie Florini (Illustrator)
The book was provided to me free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

A neat premise and I love the inspiration behind the book, although it tugs at my heartstrings quite a bit.  The non-profit Cradles to Crayons did a pajama drive that inspired this book.  It looks like a great organization whose mission is below:

Our vision is that one day every child will have the essentials they need

…to feel safe, warm, ready to learn and valued. Through the Giving Factory, we provide those essentials, as donated clothes, shoes, books and school supplies to homeless and low-income children. We also offer meaningful volunteer opportunities to hundreds of corporations and thousands of individuals and families each year.

I hugged my little lady (LL) a little closer in reading the introduction to the book where the author states that not all kids have a nice warm pair of pj’s to go to sleep in each night.  I am thankful that my children don’t and hopefully never face that challenge, but pray for those who do, and will add that to our prayers each night.

They way this book ended could easily be turned into a prayer, and that is actually what it felt like, so we did give a big AMEN at the end.  Overall a cute book but in learning that back story, just left me kind of sad.  But that is me – the parent.  My daughter seemed to enjoy, although I think this is more geared towards older kids as the font is small (I was reading on a computer though) and there are a lot of “bigger” words.  Good for discussion and explaining to her, but still I felt I probably won’t revisit this for another year or so.  (She is almost 4)

In the pajamas of my dreams, I climb into bed, pull the covers up tightly, close my eyes and…

Each page has a cute picture of someone dreaming of things based on what pictures are on their pajamas.  I like the potential it implies; that kids’ possibilities are endless and to keep dreaming.  Reactions from my LL were mixed – I wouldn’t want to work with bugs all day!  But helping people or animals would be fun! Or I know someone who does that! I think we’ll look at our PJ’s each night a little differently now and maybe project some dreams based on them.  LL likes to do that – tell me what she is going to dream about and then when I ask each AM – sure enough – that was it!

Overall – fun book, great cause, great for opening up communication and imagination with your kids, and a positive message that you can be whatever you want to be!

Follow-up question for LL:  What do you want to be when you grow up?  A soccer player.  (Never played but all her friends are starting – so we’ll leave it at that for now!)

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Kid’s Book Review: Hocus Pocus Takes the Train

Hocus Pocus Takes the Train
by Sylvie Desrosiers (Author) , Remy Simard (Illustrator)
Book provided to me free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Second installment of Book Reviews with LL (Little Lady).  (First Installment Here!)  This book presented a little bit of a challenge because it has no words!  But actually that ended up being a good thing to spur the imagination.  Which by this picture below you can see is a big one already (my little princess!)

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I asked LL if she liked the cover: Yes.  What do you think this book will be about?  Hocus Pocus the bunny, or is it two bunnies?  Hocus and Pocus – there are two bunnies on the cover.  But I guess they will take a train.  But there will be a mean lion on the train (which I believe is actually a dog!)

The book is 36 pages, all pictures, a few sound words.  Rather than the story being laid out for you, each page provides guidance and a general story-line, but allows the readers to make up additional details and story-lines that may or may not have been intended.  For instance – do you think the magician wanted coffee or tea or hot cocoa?  And what kind of bone was the dog going to get?  What do you think the purple bunny’s name is?  What about the baby?  Then sometimes I don’t prompt a question and see what details she came up with.

More questions to ask are; What do you think they are thinking/saying/going to do?  How do you think they are feeling?  Why?  It allows the children to make predictions and then see if what they predicted happens on the next page.  Then the end brings the story-line back the beginning and allows the children to recall what happened at the beginning that was then being resolved.  Lots of cause and effect.

Great pictures and a fun type of book to really engage with your children.  Definitely will check out others in the Hocus Pocus series and in this genre and you should too!

(And side note – happy 100th post to me!!)  More kids books to come!

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Whom Shall I Fear? (Happy Hump Day)

Happy Wednesday aka Hump Day!  Anyone else notice the increase in camel pictures on Wednesdays?  Maybe it’s just my FB friends, but I swear the last few weeks I see at least 2-3 camel pictures on Wednesday – new trend?

That all being said, I’ve strayed away from my typical Sunday posts the last few weeks.  And thought I would try to post when I felt most inspired, or when I need it the most, and today that just happens to be on a Wednesday!  I will try to post weekly though as it helps me and hopefully some of you!

I have been encouraged by many songs this last week, particularly some of THESE AWESOME ONES, but I’ll save a post on one of those for another week.  This past week at church we sang this one – Whom Shall I Fear – and I also hear it daily (maybe hourly) on the radio.  It seems those are the songs I’m drawn most to posting about, but when I think that through, it makes sense because it gives the song time to sink in and after a few (hundred) times hearing it, it’s made an impact.

This week at a couples bible study we were discussing two types of Facebook posters.  One was deemed the overly, happy almost fake sounding, that only posts about good things.  The other is the opposite, using it as a platform to complain to ask for sympathy.  No one wants to raise their hand for either, but if I had to label myself it would be the positive one.  I hope not fake, but my Facebook friends (be them real or virtual) don’t need to see that side on my life, so I’m guilty of only posting happy things.  Not that I want to be a negative poster, but I save my issues for my friends and family off-line.  Neither of these is right or wrong or healthy or not (I’ll leave that for you to decide).  I do believe by airing grievances, you may find sympathy and/or support, and definitely get some extra prayers.   But is there a point where it is TMI or you’re just boasting (if it’s on the positive side)? Which one are you?  (And I’m sure there is an argument in here that’s anti-social media, a highly debated topic in many of my groups – but we’ll save that for another day!)

That being said (yes I know I already started a paragraph with those words – it’s my transition today!), things aren’t always happy and shiny in my life.  These last few posts (Here and Here) focused on great things that we did.  I need to do that sometimes (often) to refocus and spend time praising God for the good things in my life, which there are WAY more than not.  But other days, and more this past week, I’ve been consumed with panic and fear.  Of unknowns and of trusting God.  And this song – Whom Shall I Fear – always brings it back into focus for me.  Who should I fear when I have God – the God of Angel Armies albeit, by MY side?  I love the imagery of that.

Here is what Chris Tomlin says about the song:

The Scripture really came to life for me after we wrote the song. I may have read that Bible passage from 2nd Kings before, but my eyes weren’t really open to the story. When Elisha is told about the army camped outside the city, and sees the fear in his servant’s eyes, he tells him, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then he prays for the Lord to open the eyes of his servant. Then he saw the angel armies all around their enemies.

Remember that if God is for us, who can be against us? We raise our hands to celebrate and in surrender. We can lift up our hands in confidence to God and know that His mercy is unfailing. His love is never-ending. He is our refuge and our strength. God’s ultimate will is not to bring affliction upon people, but to restore us so that we may experience His unfailing love.

May you always remember that you believe in God – the God of the Angel Armies, and that He’s got your back.  Always.  Amen and Happy Hump Day!

Whom Shall I Fear
Chris Tomlin
You hear me when I call
You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night
It cannot hide the light
 
Whom shall I fear
 
You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my Sword and Shield
Though trouble lingers still
 
Whom shall I fear
 
I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always on my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
 
My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory
 
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
 
And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding onto Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful
 
I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always on my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
 
The God of angel armies is always by my side

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